Enabling more Countryside Access Visits

In the last newsletter we documented how there has been an increase in usage on our public paths. This increased usage has been maintained in 2021 and is also true on our countryside sites. Castle Meadows had a staggering 98,550+ people use the site. An increase of 41.25%.

Local routes are recognised, as important for people’s health and well-being, so when footbridges become dangerous or go missing, this has an adverse effect on many people.

One such bridge issue affecting many local people was caused when flooding by Storm Dennis washed away the bridge (at The Sandhouse near Skenfrith) down the River Wye. Thanks to a Welsh Government flood grant, a new stronger footbridge has just been installed and the footpath is now available for both local and visitor use again.

The team have worked hard to make routes more accessible to all. Another example is the new footbridge installed alongside the River Usk near Pant y Goetre Farm. This replaces the old sleeper ditch crossing making it a far more commodious crossing point for a popular riverside walk in the Usk Valley. We thank the local farmer for his assistance.

We have also been pleased to receive suggestions for route improvements. In Mathern Chepstow Walkers Welcome suggested changing two stiles to gates, enabling more people to use the route. We approached the landowner who agreed to the improvements.

Similarly, we were able to provide information to the The Narth & District Footpath Group, leading to Natural Resources Wales adding a permissive route to Trellech Furnace from Woolpitch Wood to their inspection and maintenance schedule.

Thanks to a £83,000 Welsh Government Access Improvement Grant (AIG), several more bridges and a large amount of signage and gates were purchased to help several of our volunteer groups improve their paths this summer. It also helped with some of the surfacing and gate improvements at Rogiet Country Park, enabling more people to use the park and Rogiet Junior Parc Run to take place all year round.

Increased usage and climate change has meant we are investigating alternative sustainable materials. We recently found a new use for recycled bottles, which are turned into different polymers, mixed and fused under high temperatures then pressed into moulds. The resulting plastic posts formed the base of our new boardwalks in Shirenewton and Mathern. Not only can the plastic be reused at the end of its life, but it should save us the equivalent of 8 boardwalks in its life time. This is particularly good news as the boardwalk in Shirenewton is also a safe walking route to school. These boardwalks and their installation were also paid for from the AIG

In Monmouth the footpath, linking the Kings Gate Housing Development to Wonastow Industrial Estate became a muddy quagmire, unfit for people with mobility problems or with pushchairs. The path is part of an Active Travel route upgrade, but until this happens, we have assisted our Highways colleagues by installing 300 metres of plastic matting, new gates and a bridge. The matting will be used elsewhere when it is no longer required.

The above are examples of recent activity to maintain and improve paths for everyone. In the last financial year, the team resolved 2598 clearance, 632 gates, 1759 signage and 518 bridge issues. If you want to know more about how we manage sites and public rights of way please see our countryside access webpages.

The Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail will be celebrating its 50th birthday this year. These discs will be put up at different locations along the route so that walkers can do selfies with them. All walkers who participate during the month of July will receive a free key ring. If conditions continue to improve, we hope to reinstate our popular walking events, starting with three circular routes that will take you along different parts of Offa’s Dyke in Monmouthshire.